Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger appealed for fans not to stage protests during Sunday’s top-of-the table clash against Leicester City as new supporter anger erupted.
Wenger defended clubs and their prices after West Ham United’s Slaven Bilic led calls by English Premier League managers to stop stadiums becoming the exclusive preserve of the “caviar” class.
A walkout by 10 000 Liverpool fans and subsequent about-turn by the club on price rises, put the spotlight on the super-rich league where a single ticket at Arsenal can cost close to £100.
Leicester fans are now furious that Sunday’s game at Arsenal has been brought forward to suit television coverage. Some have threatened to enter the stadium five minutes after kick-off in protest at money lost on travel and accommodation.
Arsenal supporters’ group REDaction back the action and have called on home fans to applaud Leicester counterparts when they enter the ground.
Wenger said everyone should be inside the stadium for kickoff. “You can protest before and after, but during the game, you want everybody to be there,” he said adding that every moment should be savoured.
“Life is not every day fantastic – sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s difficult for many people. Football is a moment of happiness in your life, so don’t miss it.”
Leicester are more worried about television companies changing game times. But fans are still angry about prices and Bilic, Crystal Palace’s Alan Pardew and Watford’s Quique Sanchez Flores all called for realism by owners of the clubs awash with hundreds of millions of pounds in television and sponsorship deals.
“It’s not polo, it’s not golf, it’s not a sport for the upper classes. It’s the most popular sport and shouldn’t be a privilege for a family to go and watch,” said Bilic ahead of a new round of Premier League games which will be watched for protests.
“It should be affordable. If you go to the shop and buy caviar and champagne it’s expensive, it should be, but bread and milk is cheap. It should be like that with football.
“I think a balance can be found to keep fans happy. Otherwise we will have empty stadiums. It’s not like going to London to see ‘Les Miserables’, it’s football.”
The sight of 10 000 Liverpool fans walking out of Anfield in the 77th minute of last weekend’s Sunderland game in protest at a 77-pound ticket shocked many English clubs. Liverpool’s American owners reversed the move on Wednesday and apologised for the “distress” caused to fans.